(Bloomberg Markets) -- For environmentalists, climate change advocates, and ­public-health experts, the only good news on coal has been about the industry’s demise. Indeed, competition from cheaper natural gas, a boom in renewable energy, and tougher emissions regulations have forced coal-fired power plants across the U.S. to close. While some opponents of the coal industry might want to see these fossil fuel relics flattened and sent to the dump, there are efforts to ­redevelop and preserve these important historical sites. Here, we’ll show you some of the clever ways America’s coal infrastructure is being repurposed. With the use of tax credits and re­development grants, some dusty old plants are being turned into positive resources for the community.

One example is the Powerhouse (below), a decommissioned coal-fired power plant that was converted into a student union, recreation center, and athletics facility at Beloit College in Wisconsin. This summer the Powerhouse has hosted a mix of low-income, first-generation, and minority students as part of a program to help them prepare for applying to postgraduate programs at Ivy League universities.

Blackhawk Generating Station Commissioned as a coal-fired power plant in the early 1900s, the building now known as the Powerhouse once spewed clouds of dirty air into downtown Beloit, Wisc. Now, the site is helping young people plan for a brighter future. 

Powerhouse Eatery, White Haven, Pa.  Old coal-fired power plants have in some cases become a destination. At the Powerhouse Eatery, diners are served dishes of oysters, lobster, and filet mignon in a space that used to supply power to a sanatorium. The plant was renovated to create a restaurant in 1989, maintaining much of the existing construction.

Power House, St. Louis Many original features were maintained in the redesign of the site now known as the Power House in St. Louis. Years ago you could see giant coal-burning mechanics through the 26-foot-tall windows in this 1928 power plant. In 2006, after the building sat vacant for 25 years, architectural design firm CannonDesign bought it and converted it into an environmentally friendly regional office.

Shamokin Dam, Pa. More remote locations are proving to be attractive for new industrial purposes. The closure of a coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania in 2014 opened up a 219‑acre stretch along the Susquehanna River for redevelopment. The area now hosts a medical marijuana cultivation facility, as well as a natural gas power plant.

Mt. Tom Solar Farm, Holyoke, Mass. The removal of a coal-fired power plant from the grid creates opportunities for cleaner energy generation. After one closed in Holyoke, Mass., in 2014, a portion of its land was used to build a community solar project.

The site now contains lithium-ion batteries that enable the storage of up to 3 megawatts of solar-generated energy.

Completed in 2018, the 5.8-megawatt photovoltaic facility with battery storage is helping Massachusetts reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.


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